In Review: Yesterday Again

Yesterday Again by Barry Lyga

Published by Scholastic Press, January 2013. Hardcover of 337 pages retailing at $16.99. Intended for ages 9 – 12.

Note: I read an advanced copy so any aspect of the book could change before publication.

The cover: Mighty Mike looks down at some swirling mist as he hovers near a lighthouse. He looks unsure about something. This scene does come to pass in the book, but this image spoils nothing. Nice jacket illustration by Andrew Trabbold, with design by Christopher Stengel. Mike’s a major character in the book, but Kyle is the protagonist. I would have liked to have seen him on the cover. Overall grade: B

The premise: From the inside cover: “Kyle Camden, a.k.a. the Azure Avenger, unintentional Bouring archvillain, has a foolproof plan to finally prove that Mighty Mike, town superhero, is in fact an alien. Now that Kyle has cracked how to time travel and finished building his cronovessel, he’s going back in time to the night Mighty Mike showed up on Earth to record his arrival. Yet just as Kyle’s leaving, something evil is unleashed on Bouring during the annual time capsule burial. Kyle decides Mighty Mike will just have to save the day without his help this time. And if he can’t, then Kyle can take care of it when he’s back. Or can he? Kyle accidentally overshoots his intended destination, landing in 1987 and burning out the chronovessel. Which wouldn’t be a problem except 1987 is the technology Stone Age and none of the parts he needs for repairs have been invented yet. As if that’s not bad enough, he finds the mysterious Walter Lundergaard lurking around with some surprisingly advanced technology of his own. But Ludnergaard is from Kyle’s time, and he’s not any younger in the past. So how did he end up in 1987 and why? Kyle better figure it out quick. Because if he can’t get back to the present immediately, well, there might not be a present anymore!” Okay. We have a superhero, an archvillain, an alien, time travel, and an enigma named Walter Lundergaard. Where was this book when I was 10? Overall grade: A

The characters: Kyle Camden is our twelve year-old protagonist. He has all the super powers you’d find in Superman but he’s also super smart. His problem is he’s always been upstaged by Mighty Mike, who’s more like Captain Marvel, and Kyle ends up looking like the town’s supervillain. Not helping his self-esteem is that every time he tries to prove MM is a fake, it backfires on him. He’s a frustrated, arrogant super intelligent teen who craves the praise of the town and is always denied it. There’s something to be said for a lovable loser. He’s so conflicted over how he’s perceived, he actually considers that he might, indeed, be a villain. He’s a fun character, who’s a genius in many ways, but clueless in others, such as 1987 technology. I found myself rooting for him and felt his frustration as he hit some dead ends. He is a fully fleshed out character who’s just flat out fun to read. The second most important character is Mighty Mike, who acts oddly. He’s a very innocent individual and unbeleivably strong, but speaks strangely: he has issues with certain words, giving credence to him not being from this world. If you’ve been reading comic books for some time you’ll probably figure out his origin before it’s revealed in the epilogue. If your the intended audience for this book, I don’t think this will be an issue. The villain of our tale may or may not be Walter Lundergaard. He has a history with Kyle but his being in the past seems to have changed who and what he is. As an adult reader, I found him to be the most interesting character because he’s fleshed out beyond your typical young adult novel. In fact, he could fit into an “adult” novel very easily. Overall grade: A-

The settings: The costal town of Bouring (Anywhere, U.S.A.) in 2013 and 1987 are the two settings of the book. It consists of suburbs, a downtown area, and a lighthouse on the shore. These locations are comprised of the expected homes and businesses you would see in a superhero novel, with not much variation in the twenty-five year span. The lighthouse was a nice set piece, as they don’t appear often in super heroic tales. Overall grade: B-

The action: The present was more exciting than Kyle’s adventures in the past as Mighty Mike and Mairi MacTaggert deal with “problem” that’s hit the town, while Kyle without his precious technology does what he can to make it back home. The book definitely improves once Lundergaard appears, but I can’t go into detail because of spoilers. It starts really slow in the past but improves as it goes on. Overall grade: B+

The conclusion: A slick ending that should please fans of superheroes and time travel. There’s also an epilogue that hints that his may not be the last adventure for Kyle Camden. Overall grade: A-

The final line: A little slow at first, but it gets better. This is the third book in a series, but I had no problems in all falling what was going on thanks to a nice “Previously” that comes before the story. I wouldn’t mind reading the further adventures of these characters should author Barry Lyga like to continue them. This would be a solid book for young boys who enjoy comic books and superhero films. Overall grade: B+

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